Bacalar, Mexico

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If you’re looking for an adventurous and magical destination off the beaten path, Bacalar in Mexico is a hidden gem is incredible with its crystal-clear, sparkling waters and the colourful Laguna de Los Siete Colores or Lagoon of 7 Colours. Although the Bacalar Lagoon is it’s central feature, there’s more than just the beautiful lagoon, though.

The town is rich in Mayan history and where Conquistadores took over a Pre-Columbian city in the 16th century. A nature lover’s paradise, Bacalar is also an ecologically fragile environment that is a haven for various plant and animal species, making it an ideal destination for anyone seeking to connect with nature.

Bacalar, Mexico

Why Should I Visit Bacalar?

Bacalar is a “Pueblo Magico”, a recognition the Mexican government gives to the most enchanting towns in the country due to their cultural, historical and architectural significance.

Visiting Bacalar offers an opportunity to experience the true spirit of Mexico, away from the tourist traps of larger resort towns like Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Top Things To Do In Bacalar

Despite its low-key vibe, you’ll find plenty of attractions in Bacalar to keep you occupied, from exploring Mayan ruins to adventurous activities like kayaking, diving, snorkelling or ziplining through the jungle. These are the top things to do in Bacalar.

1- See The Stromatolites At Cenote Cocalitos

bacalar mexico stromatolites
Stromatolites in Bacalar.

At Cenote Cocalitos in Bacalar, experience one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders on the planet – the stromatolites.

These ancient stone-like organisms grow from bacteria and take hundreds of years to form.

These incredible organisms are only found in a handful of locations worldwide, making Cenote Cocalitos a truly unique destination.

Take plenty of photos but be careful not to touch or disturb them.

Besides swimming, you can enjoy boating, hammock relaxation and tasty bites at the beach club’s on-site restaurant. Check out this tour.

2- Explore In An Eco-Friendly Way By Kayak

woman relaxing on a swing hammock in bacalar lagoon kayak
During a kayaking trip, one of the best things to do in Bacalar is to relax in a hammock on the water.

To fully experience Bacalar lake’s sparkling beauty, get out on the water and go kayaking.

Paddling through the crystal clear waters with the sun shining above allows you to explore the lake at your own pace and the freedom to follow your curiosity and paddle wherever you want, uncovering hidden coves and secret spots inaccessible to larger boats.

What’s more, kayaking is also one of the most eco-friendly ways to explore, which is important in a place like Bacalar, where sustainability is a concern.

Couples can opt for a double kayak for a romantic afternoon, or groups can bond on a fun and social adventure.

You could even pack a picnic and find a quiet spot on the banks with no one else around.

3- Dive The Region’s Deepest Cenote: Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul
Visiting Cenote Azul is one of the things to do in Bacalar, Mexico.

Exploring the stunning cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula is a must-do activity for any traveller, and Cenote Azul is one of the most breathtaking of them all.

Nestled within the lush greenery of the Bacalar forests, Cenote Azul, at first glance, looks like a tranquil lake surrounded by nature’s bounty.

This cenote is known to be the deepest in the region, making it an ideal spot for experienced divers to explore.

Even if you’re not a diver, you can still soak up the serenity of the crystal-clear waters and the depths below.

The warm water temperature makes it comfortable for swimming and snorkelling too.

This place carries a significant historical significance, having been a sacred spot for the pre-Colombian Mayans, who would perform their religious rituals here.

After all your fun in the sun, grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.

4- Trace The History At Fort San Felipe

If you’re a history enthusiast, Fort San Felipe, also known as San Felipe Castle, is a must-see in Bacalar.

This impressive stone fortress was constructed in 1725 by the then-governor of Yucatan and played a key role in defending the area from English attacks, making it an important historical site.

Today, it is wonderfully preserved and home to a fascinating museum that showcases more than 250 years of history involving Mayans, Spanish settlers and pirates.

Learn about the fort’s history while enjoying a leisurely bike ride.

Fort San Felipe is at: Av 3, Centro, 77930 Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

5- Explore Mayan Ruins Lost In The Jungle 

Explore the wonders of the pre-Columbian Mayan cultures by visiting the Kohunlich and Dzibanche Ruins in the heart of the jungle.

The Kohunlich Ruins are just an hour’s drive from Bacalar, and these magical temples, surrounded by the beautiful jungle, offer a unique experience, sure to leave you in awe.

The Temple of Masks is the main attraction here, an Early Classic pyramid dating back to 500 AD. Its central staircase features large stucco masks, towering 8 feet (2.4 m) high.

The Dzibanche Ruins is another important archaeological site situated north of Kohunlich.

This under-visited site is perfect for those who want to enjoy the ruins without the crowds.

6- Soar Above The Treetops On A Zipline

mother an child at the extreme road trolley zipline in forest
A zipline adventure in the forest in Bacalar, Mexico.

For an adrenaline-pumping experience, head to Kan K’in park for high-speed zipping through lush jungle canopies.

North of the main town just 12 miles (19 km) outside of Bacalar, this zipline experience has five thrilling zip lines stretching over 4,900 feet (1,500 m), allowing you to soar high above the treetops while admiring the stunning views of the Lake of 7 Colours in the distance.

Some hiking paths below offer a different perspective of the beautiful forests if you prefer to stay on solid ground.

7- Traverse The Infamous Pirates’ Channel

Ahoy, mateys! No trip to Bacalar Lagoon is complete without a visit to the infamous Pirates Channel (Canal de Los Piratas).

This picturesque waterway has stunning blue waters but also holds a significant place in Mayan culture as an important trade route.

The waterway connects the Hondo River to Bacalar Lagoon and is considered the natural border between Belize and Mexico.

To fully appreciate this historic waterway, take a kayak or boat ride and soak up the beauty of the scenery.

Bring your camera for some fantastic photos, as this is the only spot on Bacalar Lake where such vivid colours can be seen.

8- How Many Birds Can You Spot At Bird Lagoon?

bacalar mexico red parrots
Beautiful birds in Bacalar, Mexico.

Embark on a bird-watching adventure at Bird Island in the midst of Bacalar Lagoon.

This small island is a haven for migratory bird species, so keep your eyes peeled for colourful parrots, birds of prey and green jays.

If you’re an avid photographer, visit the island early in the morning when the sun rises over the lagoon, casting a stunning azure hue on the water and mangroves.

Keep in mind that Bird Island is further away than it looks and swimming there is not recommended, so take a boat or kayak to get there.

9- Ride The Rapids At Los Rapidos

Get ready for a wild ride at Los Rapidos, one of the most popular spots in Bacalar.

Located just 4.3 miles (7 km) outside of town towards Chetumal, this ‘balneario’ is built around a natural river lined with stunning mangroves.

The main activity at Los Rapidos is floating down the river, where you’ll walk along a 984-foot (300 m) platform before taking the plunge and letting the current carry you back to base.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, rent a kayak and paddle down the river instead.

Where To Stay

bacalar lagoon mexico
Palapa on the water in Lake Bacalar Mexico.

If you’re already envisioning yourself soaking up the sun and taking a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Bacalar, we understand your excitement. But before you pack your bags, you’ll want to secure a comfortable and suitable place to rest your head.

Fortunately, Bacalar has no shortage of accommodation options, ranging from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly hostels. Whether you’re seeking a lavish retreat or a cosy and simple abode, you’re sure to find a perfect match.

To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of our top picks for where to stay in Bacalar.

Luxury $$$ – OurHabitas Bacalar

If you’re searching for the ultimate luxurious retreat in Bacalar, look no further than Habitas Bacalar, the crown jewel of the town’s hotel scene.

Nestled in a lush jungle oasis, this 5-star high-end property is the latest addition to the prestigious Habitas collection.

From the moment you step into this majestic property, you’ll be transported into a world of indulgence and tranquillity.

Each unique A-frame tented room has been designed with attention to detail, providing luxury and comfort.

The hotel’s holistic focus on wellness and restoration will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed with its exclusive amenities, including a serene spa and a yoga deck overlooking the lagoon.

From culinary experiences to outdoor excursions, the hotel’s concierge team will ensure that every aspect of your stay is tailored to your needs. Check the latest prices here.

Mid-range $$ – Hotel Aldea 19 Bacalar

At Hotel Aldea 19 Bacalar, elegance and comfort meet in the heart of one of Mexico’s most picturesque destinations.

This charming 3-star hotel is a true gem, offering a range of amenities to make your stay unforgettable.

From its cosy restaurant and bar to its lush garden, the hotel provides everything you need to relax and unwind without leaving the property.

Each room is beautifully designed, featuring garden views, and some rooms have balconies overlooking the stunning lake, where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the tranquil scenery.

The air-conditioned rooms are well-equipped with a desk, safety deposit box, flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with a shower, ensuring a comfortable and convenient stay.

Breakfast is included but if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, guests can also choose to indulge in an a la carte breakfast option for an additional fee.

Hotel Aldea 19 Bacalar provides a perfect retreat for travellers seeking a tranquil escape without compromising comfort or luxury. Check the latest prices here.

Budget $ – The Yak Lake House Hostel

The Yak Lake House is hands down the most sought-after hostel in Bacalar.

This budget-friendly option is located just a stone’s throw away from the public entrance to Bacalar Lagoon and within walking distance to the heart of Bacalar.

Its prime location makes it convenient for guests to explore famous landmarks like Bacalar Fort, the local market and the ADO bus station.

The hostel has bike rentals, a lively bar and a spacious communal area for socialising.

Guests are free to utilise the community kitchen and whip up meals.

The Yak Lake House is an iconic Bacalar accommodation with dormitories and private rooms, emphasising communal living.

The rooms are simple, but the lakefront location more than compensates for it.

If you’re travelling solo and eager to make friends, The Yak is an excellent spot to mingle with like-minded travellers. Check the latest prices here.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Bacalar?

Woman relaxing on a lounge at the edge of the Mexico Bacalar lagoon
Looking for things to do in Bacalar, Mexico? Here’s a great guide.

To get the best out of a trip to Bacalar, it’s important to choose the right time to visit.

The best months to visit Bacalar are from December to April. During these months, Bacalar experiences a dry season with very little rainfall and warm temperatures but not excessively hot, making it perfect for outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking and exploring the town.

The water in the lagoon will be clear and inviting at this time, and the sky is usually sunny, making for the perfect backdrop for your vacation photos.

The dry season is also the peak tourist season, so you can expect plenty of events and activities in the town during this time.

This means you’ll be able to immerse yourself in local culture and meet other travellers.

On the other hand, the months of May to November are considered the rainy season in Bacalar, and, while the weather can still be pleasant during this time, the frequent rain showers can limit outdoor activities.

This period is also low season, so there may be fewer tourists and fewer events in town.

This means that the prices for accommodations and activities may be lower, making it a good option for budget travellers or those who want the place to themselves.

It’s important to note that late summer and early fall are not the ideal time to visit as they coincide with the storm season in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.

It’s advisable to avoid this period as cyclones can be very powerful, leading to travel disruptions.

What To Take

lake bacalar mexico
The lake is seven shades of blue in Bacalar Mexico.

Packing the right items is important to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable vacation.

As you create your Bacalar packing list, keep in mind that the weather is tropical and humid, so choose flowy and breathable clothing made of cotton or other lightweight materials.

In addition to clothing, there are a few essential items that you should include on your Bacalar packing list.

First, bring enough pesos to last your entire trip, as ATM availability and functionality can be unpredictable.

Second, use only biodegradable sunscreen to protect the sensitive ecosystem of the lagoon.

Third, a waterproof camera such as a GoPro will allow you to capture your exciting aquatic adventures!

Lastly, eco-friendly bug spray, a sun hat, a collapsible water bottle and a waterproof phone pouch are other items that may come in handy during your trip to Bacalar.

How To Get There

There are several ways to get to Bacalar, depending on where you are coming from.

From Cancun

Starting from Cancun, the easiest and most convenient way to reach Bacalar is by renting a car from Cancun International Airport.

Stick to major roads, avoid driving at night and you’ll be good to go. Alternatively, you can take the budget-friendly ADO bus, which takes around 5 hours and 20 minutes.

Travel in style by booking a shuttle from the airport, although this can be a bit expensive.

From Tulum

If you’re coming from Tulum, you can hire a taxi, take the budget-friendly bus, which takes around 2 hours and 50 minutes or rent a car.

A private shuttle is also available and comes with the option to add some sightseeing along the way.

From Playa Del Carmen

From Playa del Carmen, rent a car or take the bus from the ADO Playa del Carmen Alterna Station.

The bus stops only once, in Tulum, and takes about 4 hours. Alternatively, you can take a private shuttle, but they can be overpriced.

From The Closest Airport: Chetumal International Airport

Flying to Chetumal International Airport is also an option if you’re coming from other parts of Mexico, with a travel time of about 30 minutes to Bacalar from here.

So, there you have it! No matter where you’re starting from, Bacalar is just a few hours away. Now that you have all the information you need at your fingertips prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure.

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Jane Williams is a writer living in Mexico. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, she has visited over 30 countries and lived in Japan for two years. Passionate about culture and history, her fascination for ancient civilisations has led to her to explore the world's iconic sites, such as Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat. Even though she loves uncovering the secrets of the past, she feels equally at home exploring contemporary culture. A mother of two with a degree in anthropology, she enjoys sharing her travel adventures with others.